KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee coach Josh Heupel was complimentary of his team during his press conference Monday. After putting up more than 683 yards on offense and limiting Missouri’s offense to 17 points, Heupel said he was ready for the Vols to turn the page and prepare for South Carolina.
“Excited that we got the result that we did,” he said. “At the same time you come back into the building on Monday, and it’s about how we get better.”
Special teams play will be especially important this week against the Gamecocks. South Carolina kick returner Juju McDowell has three returns for 110 yards, including one of 63 yards.
Tennessee gave up a 100-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter against Missouri.
“They’ve found ways to change the game on special teams,” Heupel said. “We’ve got to do a great job and minimize their opportunities and plays there.”
Heupel said despite the lopsided win he and the staff found corrections to make in all three phases of the game.
“College football is a game of 12 weeks but its a one-week season every single week,” he said. “If you try to compare and contrast scores from week to week, it won’t make sense.
“As a competitor, the tough thing, and the great thing, is when you come back into the building it’s on to the next one and the only thing that matters is the next one. We’re only as good as we are next Saturday 12 o’clock against South Carolina.”
No more ‘or’
The quarterback depth chart officially signaled what most gathered from Saturday’s win: Hendon Hooker is the starter going forward for the Vols.
Hooker was an efficient 15-of-19 passing for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He became the first Tennessee quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns in four consecutive games since Joshua Dobbs did it in 2016.
Heupel said the redshirt senior’s eyes were in the right place and he’s making good decisions both pre-snap and during the play.
“He’s been better taking care of the football with the ball in his hands,” Heupel said. “He’s been in control at the line of scrimmage.”
First quarter fury
Tennessee continued its string of starting strong starts. The Vols averaged more yards per play in the first half, 11.5, than Missouri scored points, 10.
UT has now outscored opponents 73-13 in the first quarter this season. Tennessee did not punt for the first time since a 63-7 win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 5, 2009.
Al Wilson being recognized
Tennessee will recognize former linebacker Al Wilson on Saturday for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The tenacious leader of the defense was instrumental in the Vols’ 1998 run to the national championship.
Heupel said he got to know Wilson during the spring as the Vols were preparing for the Orange and White game.
“Just in the short time of me being here, getting the opportunity to know him, his love for this program is real,” Heupel said.
The Jackson, Tennessee, native was named first-team All-SEC and first-team All-American that season. He was also a first-team All-SEC selection in 1997. Wilson played 42 games for the Vols racking up 272 tackles, including 27 for loss and 11 sacks. He also forced eight fumbles and had two interceptions.